Chp 10 - Chapter 10 Chapter 10: I Feel For You When we read...

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Chapter 10 The Art of Feeling , Page 48 Chapter 10: I Feel For You When we read a novel, watch a drama, or behold a painting, we experience life through the eyes, thoughts, and feelings of another. Not only are we transported to another place and time, we are also transplanted into another‘s body. We empathize with others, feeling their plea- sure or pain. Andrew Wyeth‘s Christina’s World (Figure 10.1) presents a woman in a broad field, who seems des- perately distant from her home. Christina’s World fills us with loneliness and long- ing. The painting is made even more poignant by the fact that Wyeth based this painting on his next-door neighbor, Christina Olson, who was crippled and unable to walk. Wyeth once saw Christina crawling outside on the grass toward her kitchen door. That evening, he sketched a drawing putting her out in the field with the Olson house in the distance. 1 Our feelings for others, and more specifically our feelings as others, have powerful effects in driving our emotions. With Christina’s World , background knowledge of the subject matter enhances our experience as we consider what it would be like to be paralyzed and unable to walk. In addition to empathizing with individuals depicted in paintings, we also empathize with artists and their emotional struggles in creating art. Many have considered the artist‘s intention to be critical in our experience with art 2 . Some have argued that the main purpose of art is to communicate feelings. Yet others, with post-modern, conceptual views, have veered away from this empathetic relationship between artist and beholder. The literary critic Roland Barthes in a famous essay, Morte d'Author ( Death of the Author ) 3 , argued that we should abandon any inter- est in the creator. Empathy in Art In everyday experiences, social interactions are often filled with emotional identification as we might empathize with another person‘s dilemma. We often say, ― I know how you feel‖ or ―I understand your situation,‖ as if we put ourselves in another‘s predicament. In our expe- riences with art, we identify with fictional characters and resonate with their feelings in the same way we do with real individuals. Getting Involved With Christina’s World , two kinds of emotional responses might be experienced. First, with knowledge of Christina‘s circumstances, we experience sympathy. Such feelings of pity encourage helping behavior. A mother might sympathize with her baby crying in a crib and nur- ture the child. It is this kind of sympathetic response that philosophers such as David Hume and
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Chapter 10 The Art of Feeling , Page 49 Adam Smith used to explain moral behavior. That is, sympathetic responses serve to encourage altruistic behavior and assistance of those in need. In experiencing art, there is same capacity to sympathize with individuals portrayed. The second more direct emotional response that we experience with art is empathy. This feel-
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This note was uploaded on 11/04/2010 for the course PSYCH 39E SEM taught by Professor Shimamura during the Spring '10 term at University of California, Berkeley.

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Chp 10 - Chapter 10 Chapter 10: I Feel For You When we read...

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